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July 10, 2023

10 Art World Documentaries to Watch this Summer

Article by Mollie Barnes

5 min. read

1. Black Art: In the Absence of Light, 2021

Presented by HBO, this compelling documentary showcases the rich legacy of African-American art spanning two centuries, tracing its evolution to the present day.

Through engaging interviews with esteemed curators, artists, and scholars such as Jordan Casteel, Amy Sherald, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley, and numerous others, the film delves into the captivating stories and experiences of these creatives. Their poignant and thought-provoking insights shed light on the historical neglect endured by African-American artists and emphasise the urgent importance of acknowledging and rectifying.

Watch now on Amazon.

2. Aggie, 2020

Aggie depicts the remarkable journey of Agnes Gund, a prominent art collector and philanthropist. This documentary delves into the intersection of art, race, and justice, as it explores Gund’s decision to sell a 2017 Roy Lichtenstein painting titled ‘Masterpiece’ for a staggering $165 million. Inspired by this sale, Gund initiates the Art for Justice Fund, an organisation dedicated to combating mass incarceration. The film presents an exceptional portrayal of Gund’s generosity and highlights the transformative impact of social change.

Watch now on Amazon Prime.

3. Made you Look: A True Story About Fake Art, 2020

Directed by Barry Avrich, this captivating feature-length documentary unravels the mesmerising world of art forgery.

Delving into the notorious Knoedler Gallery forgery scandal and subsequent trial, the film sheds light on the intricacies of this grand illusion. The scandal rocked the art world when the esteemed New York Gallery faced accusations of selling counterfeit Abstract Expressionist masterpieces attributed to renowned artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The documentary exposes the astonishing events that led to the closure of the gallery.

Watch now on Netflix.

4. Drawing the Line: The Graphic Legacy of Keith Haring, 2005

Drawing from a wealth of archival footage, this documentary delves into the enigmatic life of the iconic artist, Keith Haring.

From his early days in the graffiti scene of New York to his meteoric rise to international fame, the film traces the remarkable journey of an artist whose influence reverberated across the globe. Titled “Drawing the Line,” the documentary not only showcases Haring’s art but also features illuminating interviews with his colleagues and friends, providing fresh insights into the man behind the artistic genius. Through this exploration, viewers are immersed in Haring’s world, gaining a deeper understanding of his impact and enduring legacy.

Watch now on AppleTV.

5. The Art of Making It, 2022

This captivating film is an absolute must-watch. Offering a thought-provoking perspective, it provides an extraordinary glimpse into the contemporary art scene.

Through the lens of a group of young artists teetering on the precipice of failure or triumph, the audience is granted exclusive access to the behind-the-scenes workings of the unregulated and mysterious art world of today. While the documentary does not offer definitive solutions, it serves as a powerful medium to shed light on the existing challenges and underscores the ongoing necessity for change. With its remarkable insights, this film serves as an exceptional catalyst for dialogue surrounding the issues at hand.

Watch now on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and Google Play.

6. Waste Land, 2010

Witness the transformative power of art in this remarkable documentary that explores the concept of creating masterpieces from waste.

Accompany artist Vik Muniz on a captivating journey to the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where he collaborates with landfill workers to produce awe-inspiring contemporary art. Set against the backdrop of an increasingly aware world grappling with the significance of waste and the environment, this uplifting film places the indomitable human spirit and the urgency for climate action at its heart. It showcases the potential for creative expression to transcend boundaries and illuminate the path towards a sustainable future. Prepare to be inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and the immense beauty that can emerge from unexpected sources.

Watch now on Amazon.

7. The Price of Everything, 2018

“The Price of Everything” is a thought-provoking documentary from 2018 that takes its title from an insightful quote by Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere’s Fan. This captivating film delves into the current state of the contemporary art market, shedding light on a world where the pursuit of monetary worth often eclipses true artistic value. Through compelling interviews with influential figures in the contemporary art scene such as Jeff Koons, Marilyn Minter, Jerry Saltz, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and many others, the documentary offers deep insights and diverse perspectives on this complex industry. Prepare to be engaged and challenged as you embark on a journey that questions the balance between price and intrinsic artistic significance.

Watch now on Amazon.

8. Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010

No art documentary list is complete without acknowledging Banksy’s impactful 2010 documentary. This film chronicles the captivating journey and meteoric rise to fame of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant. Over the course of several years, Thierry Guetta documented the work of street artists, capturing their creative process and artistic expressions. Banksy’s documentary provides a compelling narrative that sheds light on the underground world of street art while exploring the remarkable story of Thierry Guetta’s immersion within it. Prepare to be enthralled as you witness the intersection of art, culture, and personal transformation in this influential film.

Watch now on Amazon.

9. Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, 2017

This gripping documentary shines a spotlight on the alluring but ruthless realm of the contemporary art world and market. It artfully captures the external allure of this domain while revealing its fiercely competitive nature. Through compelling excerpts, the film showcases the perspectives of renowned artists like Marina Abramovic and Damien Hirst, offering profound insights into their experiences and reflections. Prepare to be captivated as you delve into the complex and multifaceted world of contemporary art, where beauty and ambition intertwine in a captivating dance.

Watch now on Amazon.

10. Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers, 2009

We found great appreciation in the way this film delved into the lives and artistic journeys of three visually impaired artists. Through the unique perspectives of Bruce Hall, Henry Butler, and Pete Eckert, viewers are granted a profound opportunity to witness the world through their distinct experiences and gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of creating art without sight. The film beautifully portrays their remarkable practices, shedding light on the extraordinary ways in which they navigate and interpret the world around them. Prepare to be inspired as you embark on a profound exploration of artistry and the boundless human spirit.

Watch now on Amazon.

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Brandon Elijah Johnson

Brandon Elijah Johnson

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